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What’s the matter with No. 13 Oregon?

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A day after the Ducks needed to rally just to keep the final score respectable in a loss to Georgetown, who were four days removed from a home loss to Arkansas State, No. 13 Oregon needed a three from the recently-returned Dillon Brooks in overtime to avoid succumbing to a Tennessee team picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC this season.

The final score was 69-65, which was unquestionably a better result than the 66-49 loss that the Ducks suffered at the hands of Baylor last week, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of performance that would remind people why Oregon entered the season as one of a handful of national title favorites.

It begs the question: What is wrong with Oregon? The way I see it, there are four problems that Dana Altman has to find a way to deal with:


1. Tyler Dorsey and Dana Altman aren’t on the same page: Dorsey entered the season as a guy a lot of people expected to have something close to a breakout season. He was a promising freshman, averaging over 13 points, that can be favorably compared to Joseph Young, who had so much success under Altman. With the pieces that the Ducks lost to graduation and without Brooks in the lineup for the first three games of the season, it only made sense that Dorsey would see a lot of shots and score a lot of points.

Only, it didn’t work out that way.

Dorsey had 21 in the season-opening win against Army, but he’s yet to break double-figures since then. In the last four games, he’s 10-for-37 from the floor (27.0%) and 2-for-13 from three (15.4%) while averaging just 6.5 points. Those two aren’t on the same page, and whether that’s a result of Dorsey being unhappy with his role in the offense or Altman being unable to find a way to utilize his ability, the bottom line is that Dorsey is not the player that we expected him to be.

That’s a problem because …

2. … we under estimated how much losing Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook would hurt: Cook and Benjamin were seniors that stood 6-foot-6, were as athletic as anyone in the country and could guard – and play – multiple positions. They were so important in giving Altman the kind of lineup versatility that made Oregon so effective last season, and the Ducks simply don’t have anyone to fill that role this season.

The other part of it?

Cook was Oregon’s second-leading scorer last season at 14.8 points. Benjamin averaged 7.8 points off the bench. That’s more than 22 points per game that left, 28 percent of Oregon’s scoring from last season, which is why we have to ask …

3. … who is going to get buckets for Oregon?: We thought it was going to be Dorsey. We thought he was going to be the guy that buoyed Oregon’s offense early in the year, and that clearly hasn’t gone according to plan. Chris Boucher is an intriguing talent because of his unique skill-set, but offensively he’s a guy that needs to be set up, either for an open three-pointer or a dunk at the rim. Jordan Bell’s the same way, except he’s not knocking down many threes. Casey Benson isn’t a guy that looks to score, he’s a facilitator through and through. Payton Pritchard is a freshman that needs a year before he’s a focal point offensively. Dylan Ennis might be Oregon’s best offensive weapon right now and he’s a sixth-year senior that missed last season with a foot injury who has never averaged double-figures in his collegiate career.

Oregon is playing pretty good defense this season, much better than what they did last year. But they’re not scoring. Against Baylor, they mustered 49 points (0.817 PPP). Against Georgetown, they scored 61 points (0.859 PPP). Against Tennessee, they finished at 0.851 PPP. Those are the kind of numbers that Virginia’s record-setting defense would allow to good opponents, which should give you an idea of just how bad the Ducks have been.

An answer may be coming, however, because …

4. … Dillon Brooks isn’t right yet: This one is obvious, right?

Brooks missed the first two weeks of the season with a foot injury that had kept him out since July. He had eight points in 13 minutes against the Hoyas and went for 17 points in the win over Tennessee in 25 minutes. He looks a little rusty and a step slow, like he hasn’t played basketball in about four months. He should be back to his normal, all-american self in time.

The question for the Ducks is just how many of these question marks Brooks will answer.

He’ll make them more effective on the offensive end of the floor – that’s what happens when you plug in a guy that can get you 25 points on any given night – but is his presence the difference between a team that can win the Pac-12 and a team that was a possession away from playing Chaminade for last place in the Maui Invitational?

The end was disappointing, but Kentucky’s season outpaced all expectation

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In yet another example of what makes March Madness the greatest and most unpredictable sporting spectacle on the planet, Kentucky’s run to the Sweet 16 this season is going to be looked at as a disappointment.

Who saw that coming back in January?

Who thought that this team had second weekend potential when they were in the midst of the first four-game losing streak of John Calipari’s tenure in Lexington?

And please, show me who, at that point in time, predicted that Kentucky media would be calling a loss in the Sweet 16 “the worst loss” in the Calipari era back when there were actual discussions being had over whether or not the Wildcats were going to get into the NCAA tournament?

It’s amazing how quickly the tide turns in college basketball

Kentucky lost on Thursday night. The fifth-seeded Wildcats fell to the ninth-seeded Wildcats of Kansas State in a game that turned into drama-filled slugfest down the stretch. The final score was 61-58. Kentucky had two shots at the end of regulation to force a tie or take the lead. They also gave up an offensive rebound to a 6-foot-3 no-name with 40 seconds left that led to the game-winning bucket.

The narrative is going to be that Kentucky choked this game away, that their inability to run offense — and P.J. Washington’s free throw yips — cost them the Final Four that seemed a given Thursday morning and a pipe dream on Selection Sunday.

The truth is that Kentucky was a flawed basketball team that got hot at the right time before running into a team that executed a game-plan to perfection while getting the benefit of a couple of bounces and whistles going their way.

And let me be perfectly clear: In no way, shape or form am I saying that Kentucky or Big Blue Nation should be happy with this loss. It should be disappointing. It should hurt — more so for the players than the fans, but whatever. The bracket broke perfectly for them. Everyone in their region was a cinderella. We weren’t wrong in thinking that Coach Cal’s kids were the heavy favorites to get to San Antonio out of Catlanta.

But we need to say that while also acknowledging this: There is a reason that Kentucky was a No. 5-seed this season.

This was a flawed basketball team.

They were young. They didn’t have enough shooting. Their offense was entirely too predictable, even when they were winning. If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox weren’t carrying the load for them on that end, they didn’t really have anywhere to turn. And on Thursday night, they ran into a team that had the personnel and a game-plan to take away Kentucky’s two go-to guys.

Kansas State is not overly talented, but what they have in abundance are tough, athletic and older guards that are going to put in a shift on the defensive end of the floor. Kentucky fans may not know who Barry Brown is, but I guarantee you that fans of every Big 12 team can tell you just how good he can be. I guarantee that coaches in the Big 12 can tell you just how annoying their guards are, and those little guards played that role to perfection.

To put it another way, it wasn’t a fluke that Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to make plays off the dribble the way he has for the last two months of the season. It wasn’t an accident that Kevin Knox struggled to find a way to get the looks he had become accustomed to getting coming off of Kentucky’s circle sets.

And in a 40 minute basketball game, when one team matches up well with another, something as simple as Xavier Sneed catching fire and Washington going 8-for-20 from the foul line will get you beat.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Because the real point that I am trying to make here is that this particular Kentucky team just wasn’t all that good. They were young. They were injured. They had their flaws masked by the improvement of a couple of kids who played out of their minds for long stretches of the season, and I just don’t think that’s something that should be overlooked.

Maybe this is just my mindset as a fan. I enjoy the ride more than I need to celebrate the ending. Give me a reason to tune in every game. Make me excited to have the monotony of a week broken up when the ball tips. I’m good.

And I think this Kentucky team accomplished just that.

But two weeks ago, no one thought this team had a shot of getting to the Elite 8. Two months ago, every Kentucky fan would have taken a trip to the second weekend in a heartbeat.

The ending sucked.

No doubt about it.

But this team kept fighting and kept improving and, in the end, lost because someone took makeup remover to the cosmetics that Calipari applied.

Be disappointed, but don’t lost sight of the big picture.

VIDEO: Townes’ late 3 seals Loyola’s win over Nevada

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Nevada was faced with a dilemma. The Wolf Pack were down just one possession – just one point – and were on defense with with a five-second differential between the game and shot clocks.

Foul and extend the game or play it out and hope for a stop?

Nevada opted to play it straight-up, and Loyola hit them with the worst-case scenario – a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock.

The 3-pointer from Marques Townes made it a two-possession game and the clock all but ruled out the possibility for two possession.

And that’s why Loyola is now in the Elite Eight.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Saturday’s tip times, TV channels, announcer pairings

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Half the spots in the Final Four are up for grabs Saturday. Be sure you know where your TV needs to be before the nets are cut down.

Atlanta: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 6:09 p.m. – No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 11 Loyola, TBS

Los Angeles: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 8:49 – No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 9 Florida State, TBS

VIDEO: This is the shot that ended Kentucky’s season

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Barry Brown has spent all season being underrated.

And Kentucky found that out the hard way on Thursday night.

This bucket with 18 seconds left gave Kansas State a lead they would never relinquish in a win over Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Florida State advances past Gonzaga to Elite Eight

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Florida State was an afterthought heading into the season in an ACC that was as loaded as it was top-heavy.

They were a No. 9-seed in the NCAA tournament in part because they were able to pick off North Carolina and Clemson at home by a combined three points.

They needed three overtimes to hold off Miami and Syracuse at home. They needed a win over Boston College on Senior Night to avoid heading into the ACC tournament with a losing record, and they ended up going and losing in the first round of the ACC tournament to a Louisville that never really sniffed the bubble and parted ways with their interim head coach as soon as their NIT run ended.

They were almost universally picked to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Missouri because everyone knew Michael Porter Jr. was back and secretly hoped that the potential top five pick might actually make some noise as a collegian before his run came to an end.

The Seminoles have been written off and ignored for the entire college basketball season.

And now they are a win away from the Final Four.

Terance Mann scored 18 points and Florida State held fourth-seeded Gonzaga to 35 percent shooting as the Seminoles advanced to their first Elite 8 since 1993 with a 75-60 win on Thursday night. The Seminoles will advance to take on No. 3-seed Michigan with a trip to the Final Four on the line. They have not been to a Final Four since 1972, which was the last Elite 8 before their last Elite 8.

Put another way, the program that has been ignored all season long has been to precisely one Elite 8 since 1972.

That’s a long time to be irrelevant.

So I guess it’s time that we all started to pay attention.

And here’s the interesting part of this: The Seminoles are actually a fun team to watch this year. This is not the kind of grind-it-out Florida State teams that we have become accustomed to with Leonard Hamilton at the helm of this program. They don’t try to play as many enormous human beings at one time as they can. Florida State plays a lot of small-ball. They have a lot of physical, athletic and switchable defenders. They press. They try to force turnovers. They get out and run in transition. They have a couple dudes; Mann and Braian Angola and M.J. Carter. They’re not exactly VCU and they’re not exactly West Virginia and they’re not exactly last season’s South Carolina, but there’s a little bit of all of them there.

And that’s what did Gonzaga in.

The Zags entered this game short-handed, as their starting five-man Killian Tillie was unable to go due to a hip injury that he aggravated during warmups, but that would not have made all that much of a difference in the Staples Center.

The issue was guard play.

Florida State’s pressure simply overwhelmed Gonzaga’s guards. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Zach Norvell were a combined 10-for-36 from the floor and had a nightmare-of-a-time trying to get the ball into the lane. The Zags committed 13 turnovers, trailed by 12 within the first ten minutes of the game and never really made a run keeping this thing within striking distance.

If there was an issue with Tillie being out, it came when Gonzaga tried to space the floor.

The Zags were playing without enough shooters, particularly in the front court. That clogged the paint and made it difficult for the likes of Johnathan Williams III and Rui Hachimura to get some space down there to operate. Perhaps the most telling stat on Thursday — more than Gonzaga’s 34 percent shooting or the 5-for-20 that they shot from three — was that the Zags were 8-for-27 on layups on the night.


For 27.


And it makes me wonder just how Michigan is going to be able to handle this group, but that’s neither here nor there.

We’ll get to it in time.

For now, it is time for the Seminoles and their fans to basket in this moment.

They were right, we were wrong.